Maintain Situational Awareness at High-risk Everyday Locations

Situational awareness: do you practice it? Recently, we covered how a good guy with a gun brought a violent, would-be armed robber to heel in Seminole, Florida. In that case, the attacker prowled a Publix parking lot for victims and found a woman sitting in her SUV to his liking.

Moving in, the attacker stabbed her repeatedly as she fought to hold on to her purse. Fortunately, she lived. Unfortunately, most sheeple don’t realize how parking lots are one of the three most likely places the average person will face an attack.

By knowing these places and taking some fairly simple, almost effortless countermeasures, you and yours can avoid victimization by amateur and professional predators alike.

Maintain Situational Awareness at High-risk Everyday Locations

Why parking lots? Simple: mindset and hiding places. Bad guys know how most people think about just about everything except bad guys as they head to or from their car. What’s more, parking lots provide a multitude of unobtrusive places to linger without a sense of purpose while watching for easy victims.

Gas stations and that last fifty feet to your front door are the other two highest-risk locations for victimization.

Filling stations have those big boxes that obscure a potential victim’s view.

Today’s pumps also make it easy to fall victim to task fixation. Credit or debit? Rewards member? Car wash today?  Additives? Enter your ZIP code.

The average Joe or Jane give 100% of their attention to dutifully answering all those questions. Meanwhile, oblivious to their surroundings, they become easy marks. A bad person can easily approach them unobserved to carry out a robbery – or worse.

That last fifty feet to your front door also serves as a danger zone. People pulling into their garage or driveway and walking to their front doors usually have already switched into “home” mode. Awareness becomes obliviousness. No longer are they even remotely aware of their surroundings.

Even once inside, too often people have switched into condition white (unaware) before they’ve assessed their surroundings. For example, my ex walked into her house one day and went through two rooms before she realized she had interrupted a burglary. Scary stuff, right there.

How does one counter the increased threats in these locations?

Keep your situational awareness dialed up, especially in these places. Where possible, take a shopping cart with you as you exit larger stores.  It provides a portable obstacle against potential attackers.  When loading the car or putting your kids in car seats, box yourself in with obstacles.  Use an open door one one end, the cart on the other and the next car beside you.  This way, any ne’er-do-wells will have to negotiate obstacles to reach you, giving you time and options.

Regardless of cart availability, survey the parking lot before rushing head-long into a problem.  Suspicious characters loitering?  Return inside the store and ask for an escort or notify police.

Of course, you should have your keys out and ready as appropriate.  Ideally, your gun hand should remain free.  Using a cart, even for a handful of items, helps with this.

At fuel stations, consider making a slow circuit around the pumps in your car, watching for anyone loitering or hanging out without a sense of purpose.  If you see something out-of-place, drive to the next station.   If I had done this on my honeymoon, I would have not found myself narrowly missing victimhood mid-day in Montgomery, AL.

Once you’ve selected a well-lit pump, keep your eyes open. If you have a passenger, don’t let them bury their face in that glowing magic box checking social media updates. Instead, have them help out by stepping out of the car and watching for trouble while you pump – or vice versa. Maintain a confident, commanding presence in your body language – especially in sketchy locations.

I usually ride solo, so I make it a point to do a casual 360-degree scan before answering each question on the pump. By doing this, it lets anyone watching know that I make a harder target. And at the same time, it makes that distracted, skinny-jeans wearing millennial on the next pump look like a better opportunity in comparison.

Also, take a few steps away from the pump and your (locked) vehicle to survey your surroundings. This keeps a bad person from approaching undetected from behind the pump. Should someone surprise you in your personal space, casually practice poor muzzle discipline with the gas nozzle. If appropriate, hose ’em down if they act stupid. “I’m so sorry! That was an accident!”

Lastly, at home, keep your eyes open along with the rest of your senses. As you pull into your driveway or garage, don’t rush to exit the car. Watch the garage door to make sure it goes all the way down without a surprise visitor slipping into the garage with you. For apartment dwellers, look around the parking area for potential lurkers. At the same time, have your key(s) out and ready and don’t overload yourself with packages or groceries as you head inside.

Once you’ve crossed the threshold into your abode, close and lock the door. Then stop, look and listen for a few seconds for anything amiss. That’s when you can relax.

Making easy-to-implement minor changes in your routine can drastically reduce your likelihood of joining the victim class. Train the people you love to do the same. Help them stay safe and practice awareness out there.

34 Responses to Personal Defense Tip: Maintain Situational Awareness In Higher Risk Everyday Locations

  1. The closer your proximity to Democrats; the higher your chances of getting robbed, raped or murdered. They increase exponentionally…

  2. Two extra precautions at the gas pump: 1. Always take your car keys with you. 2. Close windows on the opposite side of the car and lock the doors. There have been many opportunistic robberies by someone reaching through the open window or opening the door for purses or other items of value, and some are so good at it the victims don’t even know they’ve been robbed. I’ve watched videos where a car slowly passes the target vehicle, a passenger hops out, burgles, and gets in back in the car in seconds.

    • This type of criminal activity is called sliding or the criminal is a slider. Slide into your car long enough to grab your belongings and slide out.

  3. I make it a habit to circle my vehicle before getting in it. It’s not time consuming in the slightest and may or may not have prevented any miscreant from getting the jump on me. I also drive home different ways as to approach from different angles. Don’t want to give anyone a predictable hiding spot if possible.

    • Haha! Same, just Missouri for me. The truck stop I fill up at has more gun tshirts for sale in it than most gun stores!

    • Open Carry advocate right here in Georgia with my CW permit, that gets me around to all the southern states. Two holsters, open and concealed, for each state I visit.
      US Coast Guard training for LE boarding’s has never left me. Look, observe, listen, then move.
      Great article and posts !!

    • Maintaining situational awareness at all times is taxing at the least and can be next to impossible.

      If you are (almost inevitably) going to “zone out”, make sure you do NOT zone out at the three locations listed in this article.

    • Thought the same thing DrewR. The term high crime area is somewhat unfortunate. Anyplace where a crime happens is a high crime area for the victim. As hard as it may seems being situational aware is not that difficult. It does require losing the tech addictions most people have today. At the end of the day it up to each to make their choices. Just don’t regret the choice you make. Your or a loved ones life might depend on it.

  4. I understand condition yellow and keep my eye out but geez you know how many times eye contact has been a trigger for the more youthful proud boasters! I lived in Hampton roads VA where panhandlers sneak up on you everyday in droves and I have to be the dick to tell them to back off I ain’t interested because they like to scare you into a few dollars as a tactic, there has been more than once where Hommie’s have popped up around the corner and tried to intimidate and feel me out just to have me act accordingly and have them apologize and say they were only going to ask what time it was (all had massive gaudy watches)

    • I live in Hampton roads and I can vouch for that, they like to catch you loading groceries in the car. I had one time two winter’s ago where a guy ran up to me while I was getting out of my car late at night to get a prescription I grabbed my gun(open carry) he froze apologized and walked away.

  5. I don’t habitually go to gas stations where utes wander aimlessly between the pumps. I lock my doors and look around me, and watch the scenery 360 degrees while the pump’s going.
    I went to pick up my wife from work at the grocery one night last month, and as I was standing outside I saw a group of utes jump out of a car and rush a lone young man. I was behind cover, cell phone in left hand and right hand on g un before any of the zombies walking out with their carts even saw anything was going on. Turned out to be a two hit fight, everybody got in their cars and split, but I was glad for the real life opportunity to react and pleased with my response. I got off the x.

  6. Go to Google, type “Neighborhoodscout crime YourCity, YourState” (e.g. Neighborhoodscout crime Seminole, FL) and follow the first search result to look at the color coded map of the crime areas in your city or town. Every bit of information is useful to protecting oneself.

  7. Did 2 out of 3 today. I hate Aldi(Walmart is worse) parking lots but always point “out” and go to the end of the aisle. Ditto for the gas station. Generally avoid the always crowded Speedway and stop pointed out and in the last lane. Quick getaway is a plus. And I’m armed lethally and non-lethal. What’s hairy is stopping off the interstate. I assume the lowlife with the neck and face tats is a criminal-and act accordingly. Head on swivel and no I’m not going around the corner to give you a jump!

  8. Joshua coburn be safe, I lived on sewells point and would sit out at night and report local gunfire and never received one police officer to respond, our cars (minus mine ) we’re broken into but nothing stolen hence looking for guns, we stuck a clever layer of exacto razors under the car door handles and the same night heard a yell and by the time I got outside suited for an occasion I spotlighted an African American with irredescent shoes at the end of the culvert holding his britches up as best he could blood trail was thick he was immediately out of sight soon after. And the funny thing was he had no clue that he might of found a disapproving God that night. Be safe

  9. Really liked the suggestion about the poor muzzle discipline with the gas nozzle, though the pump has fairly short range.

    While in a parking lot, if you have an unsavory type starting to approach, just use the blonde car finder, AKA the panic button on your key/key fob. If they take off the other direction, you know they were up to no good, you can always follow up with “Stop! Stay back!”

  10. So…regarding using the cart as an obstacle while you’re strapping your kids in the car: After you strap your kids in, what do you do w/ the cart? So do you return your cart to the nearest cart hold, possibly 50 or even 100 feet away, leaving your kids in the car unattended, possibly when it’s 100 deg outside (can’t close the doors and lock it)? Or leave it rudely in the parking lot so you don’t have to walk away from your children? That isn’t a feasible solution in a parking lot unless you get a spot directly next to the cart hold. I told my wife this advice (thinking it was sound advice) and she said, “that’s a man writing that article that doesn’t load his kids in his car when he’s by himself.” She does. Every day. You gotta leave the cart in the cart hold then strap your kids in the car, so you don’t have to leave your kids unattended.

    • Push it to the front of the car then drive off if the cart corral is more than a few steps away.

      This doesn’t have to be difficult. What does she do with the darn thing as it is right now?

      John

  11. Just think of gas stations and parking lots as you would watering holes in arid areas of Africa. This is where the predators congregate to hunt the helpless, the powerless, the weak and the unaware.
    .
    Of, course you can get attacked any where, but certain areas have a greater concentration of dangerous predators.

    Once you have this awareness, being targeted as prey is less likely.

  12. Stopped for gas in Ga at 4 am a few years ago going let from Florida. As I’m pumping two yoots walk up and asked me for my backpack for some crazy reason. Wasn’t carrying a gun so I pulled the nozzle out and told them for the third time to get lost.
    They looked at that 1 inch hole and left. S.A. includes improvising with hot coffee pots, chairs, silverware, anything you can think of.

    A gas pump will throw gas 21 feet easily.

    • Kind of reminds me of the Billy Jack movie “Born Losers” When Billy douses an aggressive biker with a fair amount of gas and then pulls out a lighter…..most likely fatal if he torches the “perp”.

  13. Just this past week I’ve had a guy running at me in a parking lot and a pan handler hassle me at a gas station.

    The guy running at me was just parked next to me and still had three hours on the road that day. He was just in a hurry. I used to live in downtown Houston, so I’m used to dealing with pan handlers. I told the clerk (a college kid), and he had already “trespassed” the bum.

  14. casually practice poor muzzle discipline with the gas nozzle. If appropriate, hose ’em down if they act stupid. “I’m so sorry! That was an accident!”

    Let me help you sir, I’ve heard a lighter helps get the smell out…

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